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16 October 2014
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Northern Ireland in WWII - Wartime Architecture

This 'pill box' machine gun is at the main entrance to Scarva House just outside Scarva village.

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Northern Ireland in WWII - Wartime Architecture

Pill boxes around Northern Ireland


Pill Box at entrance to Scarva House, just outside Scarva village

This 'pill box' machine gun is at the main entrance to Scarva House just outside Scarva village. It's probably a certainty that Scarva House was acquired by one of the services but why was this very heavy duty pill box required just here?


Pill Box on the banks of the River Bann just off the Gilford to Portadown Road

Pill Box at entrance to Scarva House, just outside Scarva village

Above: Another heavy duty pill box on the Bann riverside just outside Moyallon, two or three miles from Portadown. Why was it placed here? What was it protecting?


This Pill Box can be clearly seen on the left as you drive along Cranny Road from Bleary towards Portadown

Again another huge structure very visible on the left as you drive along the Cranny Road between Bleary and Portadown. There has to be a very good reason that someone chose to build it here.


Huge structure about a mile outside Kilkeel, thought to be a standby generator base but odd extra features are puzzling

About a mile before you reach Kilkeel coming from Newcastle this is in a field on your left although this view is from the sea side. Herbert Stevenson, whose field it sits in, tells us that it held a back-up generator which would kick in, to keep nearby radar units going, when the main power supply failed. Herbert, as an eleven year old, watched it being built by local labour. "No diggers then" he pointed out "just shovels and picks and the only machinery they had was the old type of concrete mixer.

Why would a backup generator station need large picture windows looking out to sea?
The roofs were piled high with earth to provide camouflage and extra protection against a direct hit.

As it got higher they built scaffolding ramps and it took two men, one on the handles and one in front, harnessed to the wheelbarrow, to get the barrows of concrete to the top for pouring." But if this was just a back-up generator why the big picture windows looking out to sea? It seems a bit odd. Maybe this place served two purposes?

The entrance to this then very secret radar site

The side view gives a better idea of how big a structure this radar site was

The remains of a concrete bunker that housed an RAF radar unit which is within Bobby Stevenson's farmyard about four hundred yards from the building above. Bobby is Herbert's brother and he told us how this huge structure was also built by a gang of men armed only with a concrete mixer.. no ready mixed loads in 1940! You can see the earth on top with a good growth of grass but, originally, the whole structure was covered with earth and looked like an upturned saucer, totally banked over in earth. Then a wire meshed netting threaded with camouflage material was stretched over the entire mound. The entrance was through a tunnel which stuck out into their farmyard.

Still visible on an inside door - a warning that this place was secret.
On a door inside the radar block house we could still see this notice warning off unauthorized (sic) personnel. At the time this site was operational, radar was still very very secret and making sure it stayed secret was of paramount importance. Nobody got in without the right sort of pass!

Air Raid shelter that probably serviced a nearby camp

The sort of guardroom that would have been at the entrance of scores of camps all over Northern Ireland

Just off the Leestone road on the way into Kilkeel can be found the classic design of a guardroom with verandah that would have stood at the entrance to a camp and, about a hundred yards away, is this still very serviceable looking air raid shelter. Where was the camp? Who lived there?

Relevant Weblinks:

GI Brides leave Kilkeel in 1945

GIs' visit to Co.Down after 63 years

The Americans in Caledon Co. Tyrone

See more WWII stories here on YP&M


Robbert - July '08
Your site is very interesting. I love storys of WW2 - I get my grandmother to tell me them everytime I'm with her. We live in a small village called Eden just outside of Carrickfergus and along the beach at the Fort Road there is an old army base and pill boxes that were used the nights of the Belfast Blitz.
Walking around the place I've collected many things and when I was a young boy I dug up many bullet shells and my grandfather had an old american helmet he got when the war was over and the soldiers left.

Marie Pudlo - Feb '08
I am new to this website and absolutely delighted to have found it as I was a young girl living in Aghadowey during WW11.
Are you familiar with the aerdrome in Mullaghmore,Aghadowey, Co. Derry? There are still existing runways and many buildings including air raid shelters. Our school was razed to build the aerdrome so my genertion was educated in an American built hut erected near by. Our home and several others were also demolished so the families had to find new housing. One end of this camp was designed to accommodate the WAFFS and we as little girls thought they were the most glamorous ladies right out of Hollywood.

Maura Burke - Dec '06
I am fascinated by your site - my mother lived on a farm in Newtownhamilton outside Newry, Northern Ireland, during the war and she can't remember the war having any affect on her every day life. Could anyone tell me if anything significant happened around that area - or is my mother correct and the war had no affect on people in that area?

Peter Paul Rea - Oct '06
One of the Pill Boxes built in 1940 at Newtownards Airport, On the Sea Bank has been listed and is retained in its present condition.

Outside Donaghadee the remains of a Road Block on the Peninsular Block are visible, One on either side of the road.

The Battle HQ's at Newtownards Airport was demolished in the 1980s and the E-Pens at Kirkstown Airfield have been badly damaged within the past 3 years.

Around Newtownards, some of the TYPE a Pillboxes remain.

John W. Dunbar - June '06
There are several small buildings at an area called Portmon near the Giants Causeway which was an army camp during WWII there were American, Belgian, and probably british soldiers at this camp. I remember them as I grew up near the village of Lisnagunagh and remember the gunfire and the flares on night excercises. When I was a teenager I roamed all over this area and remember reading the names soldiers had written on the walls of the buildings I also carried home spent bullets and anti tank shells and we used them for door stops. These were all red brick buildings and I don't know if they are still standing as I have lived in toronto canada for the last 40 years and have never gone back up there. This area is accessible by a road that was built during the war from the village of Carrowreagh but it may be a private road today also it had a gate as there were sheep grazing on the land.

Brian Taggart - April '06
There are numerous buildings on the old airfield at Toomebridge Co Antrim, but I'm sure you know of these ?

Diane Nickerson Bures - January '06
I have nothing of value to contribute to your site, but I just learned of the US military presence in Ireland during WW II from you, and am delighted. My grandmother emigrated from Ireland, and her son, my Father was in the Coast Guard during WW II. I'm mighty proud of my Irish genes. My regret is, that I wasn't aware of this site when I visited Ireland with my younger son in 2000, but as General MacArthur said, "I shall return," and soon I hope. I must get on with my day now, but I shall return to your site often to learn more. Thank you, and to all who've contributed to your site.

Glyn - January '06
As far as I know it was the USAF who were in Kilkeel during WW2. They had a major airbase at Cranfield and in the 60's a lot more of the old buildings and runways were still visible. I believe that most of the runways may still be there but would be overgrown by now.

B Burns - October '05
I grew up in Scarva during WW2, and watched the 'Pill Boxes' being built, German invasion was expected through the Republic of Ireland, hence all the' Pill Boxes' throughout N Ireland.

The land attached to 'Scarva House' was used as a Petrol Depot during WW2. Many's the time a few cans would fall off the trucks as they came over that bridge from the railway. The people with cars would dash out, lift the drain covers put containers down into the hole and catch whatever petrol they could.

Glenn Walsh - April '05
The 'air raid shelter' outside Kilkeel is the transmitter or receiver block for a Chain Home WWII radar station. The blockhouse at Stevenson's farm is probably the complimentary installation as the transmitter and receiver had to located some distance apart so they didn't interfere with one another. The back up generator was stored in the Standby Set House, but the one shown is very unusual in having windows.

There were a number of these stations including one at Ballywalter and another at Articlave which was still in use after the war. The most interesting though is above Torr Head and was part of the short-lived 1950s ROTOR early warning radar programme.

James O'Neill, Defence Heritage Project Co-ordinator:
The pillboxes along the Bann are part of a series of 9 stop-lines built during 1940 as a system of defence for N.Ireland. The Scarva defences are part of the Lough Neagh-Carlingford Lough line using the Bann and the Newry Canal as the main obstacle, pill boxes being used to cover the crossing points. Similar pillboxes (covering crossing points) can be seen at Gilford and Dynes Bridge. In total the NI Defence Heritage Project has located 64 pillboxes remaining in N.Ireland but this list is being continually added to.

Mr JF Dick - April 04
The D.O.E. defence Heritage project has listed 350+ sites
These are recorded and photographed.
the info should be available from the D.O.E

Gerry Armour - 1 May 2004
There is a small bomb shelter in Downpartick at the top of Knocknashinna Rd. There is a tower in a field. It's beside it on Downpatrick golf course. They sealed it up because kids were going down in to it and the lid was heavy and I think some hurt themselves.


Are there any you know about?

If there are any pill boxes or similar wartime structures around your area we'd be grateful for your input.

You can add your thoughts directly to the site, it's a very quick and simple process.

If you'd prefer you can send an email to :-

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